Premiere of AURA Dance Theatre – Doggy Rugburn

The death of humanity.
The triumph of physicality.

The creative work of the Belgian dancer, choreographer Brandon Lagaert (Peeping Tom),
composer Felix Machtelinckx and dance-theater Aura is shown at Kaunas Culture Center.

Home. The light in the hall is extinguished, and the lamp at the top of the stage is dimly lit.
From behind the scenes, strange creatures begin to creep in and creep in. Like mutated human bodies with seemingly deformed souls imprisoned in gas masks. It’s a life alien to human nature – creatures described by Howard Philip Lovercraft coming to Earth from the eternal night of the planet Juggoto. These beings are not alone, they each have their own master – man, perfect body, impeccable manners, aesthetic taste, exceptional intelligence, rich and powerful.
The Elite of Mankind. But that seems only at first glance.
A wicked spiritual void emanates from them. So who are these monsters really?

Through portraits of these two types of characters and communication between them,
Lagaert refines the dominant principle of human relationships. Purifies to the finest physical details, extremely close contact with unbreakable bodies. In addition to the characters, the choreographer turns the Aura dancers into strangers and hard to recognize. They make complex movements that may seem daunting to the „ordinary” person.

All kinds of thoughts arise when watching dancers, especially those who embody two-legged creatures with gas masks. Do dancers, like their characters, suffer from physical suffering?
The instinct of self-defense makes it difficult for high-schoolers to jump in the arms of a puppy while wearing a suffocating gas mask. Sometimes it seems like you just have to breathe inaccurately or move incorrectly, and in fact you will cross the line between creative imagination and real trauma. Motion goes beyond the normal human movement. The performance becomes an exploration of the unexplored possibilities of the body.

It is a completely different modern dance performance. In it, physicality and its beauty triumph.
And it is, indeed, infinitely beautiful. B. Lagaert creates images and connects them like cinema.
You seem to be watching a movie where the combination of images and sounds creates poetry.
The performance captivates attention from the first seconds. The stage does not show the body language „phrases” that have already become templates in the world of contemporary dance, its predictability, or, on the contrary, too abstract. Every scene is surrounded by the mystery of obscurity. Perhaps the movements performed by the dancers would be difficult to call dance in the ordinary sense. But they dance. With biased, inverted bodies. Inhuman aesthetically.

In „Doggy Rugburn,” dance, cinema and (post) dramatic theater meet. The composition of the images evokes associations with the conventional division of the scene in Robert Wilson’s work into lines that feature specific characters who do not invade another’s space. This creates a multidimensional landscape constructed from different lines of action where one character can be seen at close range and the other at a distance. Something very similar is created in this work by Lagaert. The only difference is that in Wilson’s performances, in the general landscape of images, sounds of music, and natural processes, the importance of man disappears, and here it is not man himself, but what can be called humanity.

While the viewer can choose how to combine the individual scenes and what they mean, the storyline is pretty clear. Like in the drama, it is quite easy to identify the main conflict and the course of its resolution. It is a play about the quest for modern human power. Nature is not here unless we name the bodily instincts. The latter force one to dominate, at any cost, to control as many territories as possible, to create an epic of himself. The emotions of another person, even his life, are irrelevant to him. History has long shown that it can only achieve power and luxury by exploiting and enslaving another.

The invisible and the controlling are united by an invisible umbilical cord. The horses ride on the bodies of their servants, display their power and feed on their vital energy. In the middle of the stage is a bright carpet that only „real” people can step on. The spectators are forced to watch the four-footed being oppressed, tortured, humiliated, marred. A crappy execution. You want to jump off your chair and say „Stop!” But it is quick to be ashamed to realize that you see this death of humanity on a daily basis, but in reality there is little that can be changed because external circumstances prevent it. Because that’s just the rules of this great game. At least that’s the way we justify…

The dancers read your mind as if at the end of the performance, with applause. Like a standalone visual artwork that can be viewed in isolation from the performance, holding flowers stiffens and does not gaze at you in a cheerful way. As long as you leave the hall yourself. Lost and reluctant to admit it. How much does preaching end? Maybe. In any case, it was worth remembering and reasserting that the enslaved can dare to take off his gas mask, breathe in, stand on two legs, and step on the carpet toward the glowing light.

The feeling that in the performance spirit and body turn into very contradictory opposition is not dispelled. You want to believe that spirit can win this war with any body foreign to humanity.
Even if it is human. It is made up of the blasphemous life cells that once came to Earth from the darkest and coldest planet.

The friction occurred between the dancers and the audience. Choreographer Lagaert and Machtelinckx, who composed music during rehearsals, undoubtedly succeeded in influencing the viewer by allowing him to experience the magic of a movie during a dance performance. It succeeded in destroying the prejudices about the body as a gift and its innocence. And, of course, to show how physically capable, creatively flexible and individual the dancers brought up by Birutė Letukaitė are.

Rough translation from an article written by Deimante Dementavičiūtė-Stankuvienė.

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